WITH a sprinkling of Morocco, a pinch of Egypt and a slice of the best of Spain, Paco Fernandez has managed to create one of the must-visit rural restaurants in the Axarquia.
Nestled in the charming mountain village of Colmenar, his eaterie El Olivo has been born out of over three decades experience in the kitchen.
But what really catches the eye is his attention to detail and how darn good-looking is his food.
It is little surprise to learn then, that Paco trained as an artist for five years in Barcelona, before embarking on a career in cookery.
Some of his canvases grace the walls of his charming bistro, which sits in a back street of the village, best known for its excellent honey museum.
They help to create an original feel that transcends to the dishes, which change regularly and by the season.
Having made his name in Granada, where he regularly served up 180 covers at a time, he honed his skills on regular culinary trips to Morocco, Italy and Egypt.
“I always tried to stay with locals, watching how they cooked and what they mixed their foods with,” he explains.
The end result is a melange of dishes, that all have their own original twist.
His fantastic carpaccio of beef for example comes with slices of fabulously fresh celery, which on first glance appears unsettling, but works incredibly well.
Then there is baby chicken with chocolate and a lasagne of ‘three meats’, plus a roast aubergine salad , with tomato and mozzarella.
For me though, his stand out dishes were the autumn classic of boletus mushrooms, free range egg and foie, which you could smell before it came out of the kitchen, as well as a great tagliatelle with prawns and courgette.
“I always try to improvise, change things regularly and experiment,” he explains.
It should be the key to his success in a region, which is best known for its heavy venta-style dishes.
• El Olivo restaurant, c/La Noras, 27, Colmenar Telephone: 642 50 60 86